The Former Employee of Nippon Steel Corporation
“To Develop Human Resources” to Pass on the Aspirations of our Predecessors to the Next Generation!
Kato Now that you mention it, what was the reaction within the company when you proposed that the current operational assets be included in the World Heritage List of component parts?
Minakuchi In the beginning, there was still some opposition. However, through the enthusiastic lobbying of top corporate executives by Ms. Kato and discussions with overseas experts on the "Limit of Change," we gradually gained a deeper understanding and were able to reach an agreement on the condition that the proposal would "not interfere with our business activities." How to strike a balance between regulations and restrictions for the protection of cultural properties and business activities? Without the implementation of regulatory reform, the inscribing of these assets would have been difficult.
Kato Did you really think that the regulatory reform could be implemented?
Minakuchi The government led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) at the time must have thought that it would be the centerpiece of regulatory reform. Later, the project became a cabinet initiative, and Dr. Tatsuo Hirano, who was in charge of the project, took the lead in promoting regulatory reform. I think that was a major factor.
Kato Mr. Hirano had a deep knowledge and passion for steel. Speaking of regulatory reform, I think it was important that Minister Renho, who was in charge of government revitalization at the time, visited Yawata.
－－In the future, how will we pass on this precious historical heritage to the next generation? I would like to ask you about your opinion in regards to the efforts of companies in this matter in particular.
Kato I feel that Nippon Steel Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. seem to be doing a good job of educating young employees, including new recruits, about the history of their companies. Nowadays, with the severe business climate, there are probably fewer companies that spend time on such things, but I still think it is very important to learn about history.
Minakuchi Today's Nippon Steel Corporation was formed through the merger of various companies, with Yawata Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. as the predecessor after the war, so the company does not necessarily put much effort into educating people about the history of the company. However, I personally have strong feelings about Yawata Steel Works in the past. Especially during the post-war reconstruction period and the period of high growth, Yawata Steel Works was truly amazing in terms of technological development and corporate sports. The more I read about the company in old documents, the more I realized that the "Era of Great Yawata Iron Works" during its heyday was filled with great passion.
Kato I am sure the enthusiasm at that time was enormous. After all, it supported the reconstruction of Japan. There was even a time when the Kitakyushu Industrial Zone was responsible for about a quarter of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Japan. I would like to see this fact mentioned more and more in textbooks.
Minakuchi There is a misconception in regards to the history of the steel mill, so let me take this opportunity to explain. It is often said that the "Imperial Steel Works was built with compensation money from the Sino-Japanese War." In fact, there are some textbooks that say so, but this is a complete misunderstanding. Japan received 364.5 million yen in reparations from the Qing Dynasty, but if you look into the use of the money, you will find that most of it was used to build up the armaments of the army and navy, and only 580,000 yen, or 0.2% of the total amount, was used to build the steel mill. The final cost of building the iron mill was 19.2 million yen, so reparations accounted for only 3% of the total. The rest was covered by government bonds with an interest rate of 5% and the period for repayment of 50 years.
Note: The initial budget for the construction of the steel mill was 4.09 million yen, but it was later expanded, and thus, the actual cost of the construction fee of the steel mill was 19.2 million yen.
Historical facts are sometimes bent by misunderstandings and preconceptions. I believe that the truth must be properly conveyed.
Kato Today, technology and production bases are being transferred to China and other countries, but I would like everyone to think once again about the starting point of "what it means to be an industrial nation." Even today, the industrial strength of Japan supports our affluent lifestyle. We must never neglect "monozukuri" (manufacturing). If we do not have the ability to make things domestically, we would not be able to even give birth to innovation.
Minakuchi That is certainly true. The most important thing is "the development of human resources," is it not? Whether it is technology or culture, the pioneers paved the way, and the people who came after them developed it further and built it up until today. I think it is important to nurture the next generation of leaders through the "Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution." I hope that the newly opened Industrial Heritage Information Center will help convey the "aspirations and thoughts of our predecessors" to the next generation.
－－Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for the future activities of the National Congress of Industrial Heritage (NCIH) and the exhibition and operation of the Industrial Heritage Information Center.
Minakuchi The Industrial Heritage Information Center is currently led by the great founder, Ms. Koko Kato, who is working tirelessly and with fury. However, I think it is also important as one of the activities of the foundation to educate the next generation of leaders. If we are not able to do so, there is a possibility that the second or third generation will end up destroying the National Congress of Industrial Heritage itself. Therefore, I think it is necessary to create a system to nurture human resources to create someone who can take over the passion of Ms. Kato and develop it further as an organization.
－－Thank you very much for your time today. I was able to hear such a valuable testimony.
Composed and written by Takeo Takashima
Former Director of the Sano Tsunetami Memorial Museum (currently known as Sano Tsunetami and the Mietsu Naval Dock History Museum)
Director of NPO Association for Thinking about Satoyama
Director of National Congress of the Industrial Heritage
Honorary Chief Priest Toshinari Ueda
Former Mayor of Omuta City
Archaeologist and Heritage Conservation Specialist
A fellow of the Japan Federation of Engineering Societies
Team Member of the Industrial Project Team Office for the Promotion of World Heritage Listing under Cabinet Secretariat
Governor of Kagoshima Prefecture
Mayor of Hagi City
Mayor of Uki City, Kumamoto Prefecture
The Former Employee of Nippon Steel Corporation
An Associate Professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering in Iwate University
Chairman of the Tourist Guide Association of Misumi West Port
President of Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd.
Chairman of Izunokuni City Tourism Association
Director and General Manager of Gunkanjima Concierge
Producer of the Gunkanjima Digital Museum
Owner at Tōge Chaya
Chairman: Mr. Hidenori Date
President: Mr. Masahiro Date
Proprietor, Houraikan Inn
Representative Director of Egawa Bunko non-profit incorporated foundation
The 42nd head of the Egawa Family
Democratic Party for the People (DPP) Representative for Nagasaki Prefecture
President of the NPO, Way to World Heritage Gunkanjima
MI Consulting Group
President of Watanabe Production Group and Honorary Chair of Watanabe Productions Co., Ltd.
Member of the House of Councillors
World Heritage Consultant
Director and Dean, The Kyushu-Asia Institute of Leadership
Representative Director, SUMIDA, Inc.
Journalist, founder of the Shimomura Mitsuko Ikikata Juku School
Representative, Rally Nippon
Chairman, Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution World Heritage Route Promotion Council Director, National Congress of Industrial Heritage
Representative Director, General Incorporated Foundation National Congress of Industrial Heritage (Advisor, Public Interest Incorporated Foundation Capital Markets Research Institute）
Mayor of Nagasaki City
Policy Director at Heritage Montreal
World Heritage Consultant
Executive Director of Kogakuin University
Heritage Architect and International Consultant
Head of Data Acquisition at The Glasgow School of Art’s School of Simulation and Visualisation
Head of Industrial Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh
Scottish Ten Project Manager, Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh
Mayor of Izunokuni City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Pro-Provost and Chairman of Council of the Royal College of Art. Heritage advisor of Canal & River Trust for England and Wales.
Dean of Tokyo Rissho Junior College
Professor emeritus of Keio University
Mayor of Kitakyushu City
At the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee convened in Bonn, Germany, from June 28 to July 8, 2015, the decision was approved to inscribe the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution on the World Heritage list.
At a celebratory party held to mark the occasion, some of the primary promoters of the project spoke of their joy in achieving their goal and of the trials and tribulations to getting there.
Director and Managing Executive Officer, Hanshin Expressway Company Limited
Member, Board of Directors, National Congress of Industrial Heritage
Vice-Governor of Shizuoka Prefecture
Mayor of Hagi City
Chairman, Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd.
Mayor of Omuta City
Deputy Director-General, Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau, MEXT
Former Counsellor, Cabinet Secretariat
Mayor of Kamaishi City
Member, Board of Directors, National Congress of Industrial Heritage Counselor, Shimadzu Limited
Chairman of the Consortium for the World Heritage Inscription of Modern Industrial Heritage (Kyushu-Yamaguchi) and governor of Kagoshima Prefecture (as of 2015)